Slave Rebellion Reenactment (SRR) is a community-based performance that will restage and reinterpret the largest armed rebellion of enslaved people in North American history. The German Coast Uprising took place outside of New Orleans in 1811. SRR will bring to life an episode in the history of slavery that was long hidden from conventional accounts.
It is the story of oppressed people who devised an audacious plan to organize, take up arms and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery and establish a state where people of African descent were free. It is a project about resistance and freedom.
The artwork will involve hundreds of re-enactors marching 26 miles over two days. It will be take place upriver from New Orleans in the same locations where the 1811 revolt occurred, amid chemical refineries, box stores, suburbs, gated communities and trailer parks that have cropped up in the vicinity of the former sugar plantations where the revolt began. Each participant will wear authentic period costumes researched and created especially for the reenactment.
SRR will be an impressive and startling sight: 500 black people, some on horseback, armed with cane knives and muskets, flags flying, in 19th century French colonial garments, singing in Creole to African drumming.
Through nearly all of their march to New Orleans, the 1811 rebels were unopposed as they massed, growing in number as they marched 26 miles to the city. In contrast to many war reenactments, SRR will be mainly a procession—reanimating the freedom of movement and destiny that the rebels created for themselves as they travelled to New Orleans.
Slave rebellions were, of necessity, clandestinely organized by a few individuals who enlisted new participants through informal methods of communication and conspiracy across the sprawling landscape of plantations. Slave Rebellion Reenactment is using a similar approach to identifying participants. The organizers are working with individuals throughout the region—at community organizations, colleges, neighborhood centers and other venues—who are charged with recruiting a cell of reenactors and making sure they are appropriately costumed and educated in the history of the rebellion.
Slave Rebellion Reenactment was conceived and initiated by Dread Scott and is being mounted in partnership with Antenna, a New Orleans multi-arts organization, and many collaborators and advisors in New Orleans.
Visit our successful Kickstarter campaign site to see a short video about the reenactment.
Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced…
Malcolm is a veteran revolutionary organizer who has lived in New Orleans for the past…
Bob Snead is a native of Charleston, SC where he founded Redux Contemporary Art Center…
The story of the 1811 revolt, and slave rebellions generally, is/are a powerful story of liberation with many lessons for the present. If you want to engage that history more fully, below is a list of resources I have been drawing on.
Dread has also been looking at how visual artists have approached slave and peasant uprising. In particular:
– Hale Woodruff (Amistad murals)
– Kathe Kollwitz (Peasant War series)
– Jacob Lawrence (Toussaint Louverture)
Slave Revolt in Jamaica 1760-1761, Vincent Brown. In this interactive web project, Brown presents an animated thematic map that narrates the spatial history of the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire. It gives a complex view of the dynamics and fighting strategy of revolts.
Burn (Queimada). 1969 Italian & French film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and starring Marlon Brando and Evaristo Márquez. The fictional story focuses on the infighting between British and Portuguese colonial powers to occupy an island in the Caribbean. Brando plays a British secret government agent, who manipulates a slave revolt to serve the interests of the British sugar trade. The rebel slaves are the real heroes of the film.
We would also encourage anyone interested to visit New Orleans and take Leon Waters’ Hidden History Tour of the 1811 revolt.
Meanwhile, artists are diversifying their practices and reaping the benefits of critical recognition. Mark Bradford is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale; Dread Scott is reenacting a slave rebellion; Chris Ofili is creating the environmental vision for MCA Chicago’s new restaurant; and important emerging and established women artists are mounting their first solo institutional surveys.Victoria Valentine, Culture Type, January 2017
The Slave Rebellion Reenactment is an ambitious undertaking, a gathering of 500 people in period costume restaging and reinterpreting the largest rebellion of slaves in North American historyNicole Rupersburg, Creative Exchange September 2016
As recent fights over the Confederate Flag suggest, the past is far from dead. April marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, but New York artist Dread Scott wants to take you back even farther along in American history to that lesser-known 19th-century New Orleans slave uprising—the largest of its kind in what would become the United States.Brian Boucher, Artnet.com, September 2015
What if the German Coast Uprising had been successful? How would that have changed US history? But it also poses a much more important question: what if it is successful today? Tatiana Istomina, ArtFuse, August 2014
Donors (as of May 2018)
A Blade of Grass Foundation
Nathan Cummings Foundation
Givens Foundation for African American Literature
Gore Family Foundation
Joan Mitchell Center
The Kindle Project
McColl Center for Art + Innovation
New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University
Open Society Foundations
VIA Art Fund
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
And 500+ individual donors through our Kickstarter campaign and other contributions.
Antenna is lead fiscal sponsor of Slave Rebellion Reenactment.
Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.